Showing posts with label animation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label animation. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

A Long Talk with Jim Toomey of Sherman's Lagoon

20170926_191644
Jim Toomey at American University
by Mike Rhode

Jim Toomey was in Washington recently to speak to the students of American University’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking. Toomey is the cartoonist behind Sherman’s Lagoon, a fanciful look at sharks and undersea life which appears locally in the Washington Post. He’s also done animated cartoon shorts on ocean conservation. His evening talk was open to the public, and afterwards Jim agreed to do an interview. We spoke by telephone a few days later on September 29th.

MR: How long have you been drawing Sherman’s Lagoon?

JT: Over twenty-five years. Well, let’s see… 1991. So twenty-six years now.

MR: How did you come up with the idea?

JT: I had always loved the ocean and was a big fan of Jacques Cousteau. I got my diver’s license by lying about my age to get my scuba certificate when I was eleven. I was a real fanatic about the ocean and all things ocean-related. I was also a big fan of comic strips. I was a paperboy, so I got into the newspaper business pretty young. I particularly liked the strip “Peanuts.” I read other strips as well, but “Peanuts” was really my favorite. I loved to draw, but I didn’t have the discipline to become a very practiced artist. I didn’t do figure sketching or still lives. I didn’t have that kind of discipline. I loved a combination of things: I enjoy telling stories and making people laugh, I love the ocean, and I love to draw in a loose not-so-serious way. Some of those things pointed towards being a cartoonist. The theme of the ocean came along mostly because I was looking for something different. I wanted to get syndicated and I looked in the comics pages and saw a lot of the same thing over and over again. I wanted to try to create something that was totally different. And that’s why I came up with the undersea stuff. My lead character Sherman is a character I’ve had in mind my whole life. I’ve always been fascinated with sharks. I’ve always been drawing sharks.

MR: You were born in Alexandria, VA. Did you grow up there as well?

JT: Yes, I was there until I went away to college at eighteen.

MR: So were you boating on the Potomac River as a kid, or visit the Atlantic shore?

JT: I didn’t do a lot of boating on the Potomac. My family was not a boat family. We did go to the beach quite a bit, off to Rehoboth Beach. I think one of the formative moments of my life was being at Rehoboth, or Dewey, or wherever it was, and seeing the lifeguards shooting at sharks. They had sharks out there and they actually got out a high-power rifle. I remember the image of them shooting at sharks vividly. I was a little shocked by that, I guess; what good would it do? I also saw a fisherman land a good-sized shark – not a dogfish, it was probably four feet long laying on the pier there. I got to look at it and touch it and I was just amazed.

MR: You’re living in Annapolis, MD now, so still not on the ocean?

JT: [laughs] No, but it’s on the water… we spent the last two years on a sailboat on the ocean so I’ve definitely gotten my fill of the ocean. I think the allure of the ocean as a boy was the same drivers that come with being fascinated by outer space, or dinosaurs... it’s just that unknown that I loved. All the crazy creatures that I saw in Jacques Cousteau documentaries, and in National Geographic, and science books, really made my imagination soar.

Most of us see only the blue surface, and some of us can strap on scuba tanks and swim around down there, but the reality is that we’ve know more about the moon than we know about the ocean, the deep ocean especially. It’s a still a very unexplored place. It’s mind-boggling to me that we’ve got Google Earth that’s photographed every square inch of dry land, but there’s still over 70% of the planet that we haven’t looked at very closely.

MR: Pushing back in time a little, the other night I was introduced to you by Mike Jenkins who was an editorial cartoonist with you at the Journal newspapers. I was wondering how you got into editorial cartooning, presumably after college?

JT: During college, I started drawing political cartoons, maybe my second year of college. I was at Duke University so I drew for the Duke Chronicle. I really enjoyed it. Back then, I was a little bit more of an … I guess nihilist is the best word… I was a little bit more political, a little bit more cynical and I wanted to disrupt with my cartoons. I cared less about making a living and having a steady job at it. I enjoyed the rabble-rousing role that a political cartoonist plays. I wrote and drew a political cartoon twice a week for the college paper through most of my college career.

MR: And the Journal was a small chain around the Washington area, with one for each county?

Page down to see more of Toomey's editorial cartoons, courtesy of Mike Jenkins
JT: Correct. I actually jumped over to the Journal. The first paper I cartooned for was the Alexandria Gazette because they boasted about being the oldest daily newspaper in America. While I was there, it went out of business. Not a very auspicious start to my cartooning career, but I just took my portfolio over to the Journal. They already had Mike there as a full-time guy drawing political cartoons, but I said, “Hey, I’ll do it for twenty-five bucks,” so they found room for me. I think I did them twice a week for the Journal as well.

MR: Did they just run twice as many cartoons then?

JT: I don’t know if Mike was doing one every day. He might have been doing it less than every day and I filled in when he wasn’t doing it.

MR: Presumably you had another job at the time, because you weren’t going to live on $50 a week?

JT: Right. I graduated from college with a pretty marketable degree. I was a mechanical engineer. I had a cubicle job. I was a project manager and I hated it, but I wasn’t in danger of starving.
First Sunday strip
MR: Was Sherman’s Lagoon the first idea you pitched to the syndicate?

JT: No, it was the second or third. The first one was when I got involved with the estate of Percy Crosby and they wanted to resurrect “Skippy.” I was talking to them, but the syndicates or the family didn’t like it. That was my first attempt. The second attempt was something called “Ivory Towers;” I tried doing a comic strip that was based in college. I was right out of college, and I thought maybe it would run in college newspapers. It was probably immature. Then I did another comic strip that I think was about a boy and a dog, but I forget the name of that one. I tried a panel strip… so Sherman’s Lagoon was the fourth or fifth attempt. “Sherman’s” was my first syndicated success.

MR: So was King Features your first choice for a syndicate? How did you sell it? Did you send it to each of the syndicates and King Features bought it?

First week of the strips
JT: No, I self-syndicated actually. When they rejected it, I just kept going. This is when the Apple computer first came out, so I bought myself a computer and Lotus Notes and then I bought a database of newspapers called “Working Press of the Nation.” I transcribed the names and addresses of the top 200 hundred newspapers and I created my own syndicate called Pacific Press Features. I made my cartoon self-syndicated, but I made it look like it was coming from a real small syndicate in California. I sent a cover letter to those newspapers with a sample of the comic strip, and after about six months, I had about fifteen clients including the Denver Post and the Dallas Morning News. Ultimately, the syndicates came to me. Creators Syndicate came to me. They lost a sale to me and that got their attention. They called me and I signed a contract with them.

MR: I notice that your books are published by Andrews McMeel, although you’re syndicated by King. It’s a little weird how the industry has collapsed in on itself.

JT: Yeah, there really aren’t many places you can go to publish a cartoon book. Andrews McMeel is probably the only one, but in the past there was Little, Brown and a couple of others. Nobody does them anymore. I moved to King Features after my first Creators contract was up. I think it was a seven year contract.

MR: Since you were a mechanical engineer, were you generally self-taught as a cartoonist?

JT: Yeah. I was a big fan of comic strips so I was familiar with the art form. What I wasn’t familiar with was storytelling and the actual mechanics of writing. I wasn’t very good at writing dialogue and writing it well, and fundamental stuff like grammar and punctuation. So I had to get good at that, but the drawing part came easily enough.

MR: Most cartoonists I’ve ever talked to have been drawing their entire life.

JT: Yeah, the drawing is certainly a more natural exercise for me than writing. I’m not one of these people who can just sit in a cafĂ© and write for fun. For me it’s always been hard work.

MR: You mentioned being influenced by “Peanuts” and Charles Schulz – is there anyone else you’d care to mention?

JT: Gary Larson. I loved “Bloom County” – it was very different. The strip that heavily influenced “Bloom County” was “Doonesbury” and I liked what Trudeau did with his strip. All the usual suspects… of course, “Calvin & Hobbes” – it was a great mix of art and writing; not a new idea, but doing an old idea in a very brilliant way. I think television influenced my sense of humor and writing as much as the comic strips. I was a child of “Get Smart,” “Hogan’s Heroes,” “Gilligan’s Island,” and all those stupid sitcoms that developed my sense of humor.

MR: Is there anything in your career, you would do over or change?

JT: I probably wouldn’t have signed that syndicate contract so quickly. I probably would have taken more chances with characters. I think now the strip is so in a groove that it’s hard to do that. I probably would have changed up my formula and been a little more experimental. I should have had a lot more courage with the strip.

MR: Well, on your fourth or fifth try when you finally get syndicated, it’s hard to suddenly say, “I should throw in a murder mystery or a manta ray…”

JT: Yes, when you get syndicated, or at least back then, you feel like you have good thing going and you don’t want to disrupt it, so you tend to get staid. That’s probably my one big regret.

MR: What’s the maximum numbers of papers you hit?

JT: I was probably in 250-300. The industry likes to count Sundays separately. If you don’t do that and just count individual newspapers, I’m still in about 200.

MR: You were drawing the strip digitally when I saw you recently, but you showed a photograph of yourself drawing with pen and ink. I assume originally you did it on paper, but now you do it digitally. Why did you decide to change, and how was the learning curve?


JT: I moved overseas. I married a French woman and we moved to Europe. I didn’t want to go through the expense of FedExing original comic strips every week to New York from Paris. That was going to get expensive, so I was compelled to experiment with a digital tablet. At first actually I got a scanner and I drew the strip and I scanned it and email it. I was probably one of the first cartoonists to email a strip in. Then I embraced the Wacom tablet, because I liked the way you could draw with it, enlarge the drawing, experiment with it, draw something and hit the undo button, resize, reshape, edit… it just gave me a lot more flexibility. I experimented with it for a little while and I think I made the jump in 1999 or 2000, and if you look at my last pen and ink strip and my first digital strip, it’s hard to tell the difference. I really obsessed with maintaining the look.

MR: Since you switched not even a decade into your career, I imagine you didn’t have a significant income stream from selling the pen and ink cartoons then?

JT: No, I didn’t.

MR: Can you give us an overview of your conservation work and how you got started in it?

JT: I was contacted by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to help them with an outreach piece. I was living in California, but I happened to be travelling in Washington that month, so I went to a meeting with them. When I showed up at the meeting, there were like a dozen people there and they were really excited about the power of this comic strip. I really had no idea. I just thought I was meeting with one guy that was going to last fifteen minutes and be done with it. I think it was in that meeting that I realized having a couple of million readers in a couple of hundred papers actually was kind of powerful. I helped them with their outreach piece, and then I reached out to a couple of non-profits to help them. Then I started putting some messages into the comic strip – simple ocean conservation stuff like Fillmore the turtle picks up a piece of trash, takes it up to the beach and throws it in a trash can, trash can gets picked up and dumped in a barge, and the barge dumps the entire load of trash right on Fillmore… that giant circle. I enjoyed it. I was back to my political cartooning days. I enjoyed the purpose that the cartoon had – rather than little more than a chuckle a day, I was trying to change the world a little bit. I enjoy that. I wasn’t really doing it, but in my head I was trying. That’s what made me become more and more addicted to putting ocean conservation themes into the strip. I started doing public talks, got asked to be on boards, and it grew into a kind of a fun side… I was going to say side job, but it wasn’t a job. I didn’t get a penny for it. It was a fun sidelight hobby of mine.

 
(See the other strips in this story line at http://jimtoomey.com/comic_samples/comic_01.html
 

MR: You taught yourself a type of animation then to make animated shorts then?

JT: I did animation for the United Nations. I did a series of videos for them that are a combination of me hosting and some animation. I’ve also worked with Pew Environment Group and World Resources Group, and a few other folks. I’ve been doing a fair amount of screen-based education for these outreach groups. If you go to http://jimtoomey.com/ there’s a bunch of those videos there.

MR: After getting involved in ocean conservation, at some point your family decided to go live on a sailboat for about a year and a half?

JT: Probably closer to two years. For me, it was 22 months, but they went over a little earlier. We started in the summer of 2015 and just ended this summer.

MR: What was the genesis of that?

First King Features' Sunday
JT: We always wanted to do this. My wife is a big sailor as well. We missed our chance before having kids. There’s really a sweet spot in time with kids that you can do this sort of thing, and it’s when the kids are old enough to appreciate it, but not so old that you can’t pull them out of their social fabric (which is starting around 14 or 15). Once they hit high school, they get a little unpredictable. I think the education and socialization in a high school full of people is more important than in a crew.

MR: Was it just the four of you?

JT: Yes, it was just the four of us and we hit that sweet spot in time. The kids were ten and twelve, so we went until they were twelve and fourteen during the cruise. Now the girl is a freshman in high school, and we couldn’t do it any longer.

MR: You started in Europe and went around the Mediterranean?

JT: We started on the Atlantic coast of France, and we went around through Gibraltar, so we did the Atlantic coast of Europe. We started at La Rochelle, France, went south to Spain and Portugal, through the strait of Gibraltar, and then we went to the European side of the Mediterranean. We didn’t touch much of Africa; the insurance company wouldn’t let us do it. We did take a ferry to Morocco for about a week and that was one of the highlights of the trip, but we left the boat in Gibraltar for that one.

MR: Did you buy a boat, or do they rent them?

JT: We bought the boat. It was brand-new. It took about nine months to build. We flew to France and picked it up at the factory and commissioned it. It took about three weeks to trick it out with all the ocean-going stuff. We sailed a new boat. I didn’t want to be constantly repairing a used boat; I wanted this cruise to go smoothly.

MR: When you say it’s a factory-made boat, is that a modern plastic hull then?

JT: Yes, it was a 45-foot catamaran with a fiberglass hull. The boat was called “Sacre Bleu” which is French for “gosh-darnit.” It was a tribute to two things: one is my propensity to use foul language when I’m on boats. This is a curse that you can use in front of grand-children. It’s also a tribute to our love of the ocean; if you translate it, it means Sacred Blue. It was a double-meaning for us.

MR: Does your wife come from a boating family?

JT: No, she didn’t. She just likes it. She’s fearless and just really liked being on the boat. More so than me; I was ready to quit after a year, and she wanted to go two.

MR: And you would draw the strip digitally, and just upload it to the Internet for the syndicate?

JT: Right, exactly.

MR: Did you use some of the locales?

JT: I sent them to the Med a couple of times, but a lot of my cartooning inspiration really comes from people-to-people contact. Being in that intimate family situation was more inspiration for the comic strip than the travel was. It was a little more family-oriented, a little more spouse-oriented than usual. You don’t really disconnect anymore; we read all the same headlines on the same pages that we read when we were home. The news is the same. It’s not like it was decades ago when you jumped in a schooner and disappeared off the face of the earth. It felt more like camping.

MR: Back to basic questions – what do you do when you’re in a rut, or have writer’s block? Do your characters talk you out of it, or do you have to gout out and get a cup of coffee and talk to other human beings? Or something else?

JT: I have a variety of techniques. Oftentimes I will just get up and take a walk and come back. Sometimes, I’ll sit down and read the headlines and see if there’s something in there. Sometimes I’ll take on something else because I’m not a strict deadline so I’ll work on animation until my state of mind passes. It always happens. Oftentimes I just pound my head on my desk, until I give birth to something. It’s especially true with the Sunday strips because they’re longer format and they’re standalone. I think the burden of having a standalone funny Sunday strip is a lot heavier. It’s easier in a daily to start with an established storyline and advance it a few inches, and get a chuckle out of it while you’re doing that.

20170926_195606
An ongoing animation project that Toomey showed at American University


MR: And you do it all yourself?

JT: Yes, I do it all myself. Advancing a story line in a daily strip is relatively easy. The Sundays have a bigger audience and for me, they’re the showpiece of the strip, so I can’t spend all day trying to write a Sunday and not succeed. In the end, if I have something I don’t like… I have a couple of rules: if it’s not a great joke, keep it simple. The worst joke in the world is a complicated bad joke. I have a little matrix: the best joke is a simple funny joke; the second best joke is a tie between a complicated funny joke and a simple not-so-funny joke; the absolute worst is a complicated, not-funny joke. So if I get in a rut, I just revert to a simple not-so-funny joke and then move on.



MR: How far in advance do you have the strip done?

JT: About five or six weeks.

MR: So here’s the standard “what do you think will be the future of newspaper comics?” question…

JT: Hah. The question really is, “what’s the future of newspapers?” and I think newspapers are probably going to continue to provide news in a digital form, probably shedding a lot of the things we associate with them, like the features I draw, the advice columns, the crossword puzzle, obituaries, real-estate ads, are all going to dedicated websites. Newspapers are just going to provide local news. Comics will probably either just go to long-form books like we’re doing with Andrews McMeel or shorter subscriptions where you pay a fixed amount. But I think our association with newspapers is limited.

MR: You mentioned Andrews McMeel – a few of your colleagues have had stunning success with chapter books like Stephan Pastis and Lincoln Pierce. Have you considered moving your characters into that type of work?

JT: No, I haven’t. I don’t really take the books very seriously. Books have always just been a product of the comic strip and I don’t pay much attention to book publishing.

MR: The last question – while you were overseas, did you follow any foreign comics, or did your wife get you hooked on any French comics?

JT: I saw a lot that I liked. I think my comment on European approach to cartoons is that the spectrum of topic and character is a lot broader than it is here in the US. Here you have the syndicated newspaper comic strips which all follow a formula, you have the DC/Marvel comic book, you have the “New Yorker” gag cartoon, but the variety in Europe is much broader with serious comics for political cartoons, manga, historic comics like “Asterix” – tons of those historical comic books, works like “Tintin” by Herge… so the Europeans have a much wider net in terms of inspiration and artistic style that I really envy. I think it’s a much broader market and a much bigger community, and not just syndicated cartoonists.

MR: I was listening to a French cartoonist the other day, Penelope Bagieu, who says while she’s famous as a French cartoonist, there’s not really much to that. I think it’s a broad, but shallow market, from her point of view. She’s also done an ocean campaign opposed to the bottom trawler nets the French use. Did you ever run across her work?

JT: No, but I’ll look it up.

MR: Do you go to any conventions or book festivals?

JT: No, I used to go to the National Cartoonists Society gatherings, but I’m not a member any more. I don’t really make time for it any more. With kids in school, and drawing the strip and doing the video work and animation, which takes a lot of my time, means that I don’t make time to network within the cartooning industry. If I’m invited to speak, I’ll go, but when I had the cubicle job I went to plenty of conventions so I don’t need to go to many more. I’ve never been to Comic-Con. When I get invited to a fun one, like over in Europe, I’ll go. I’ve probably been to more in Europe than the U.S.

MR: Do you have a favorite thing about Washington, having grown up around here?

JT: When I was kid I would always go to the museums since they were free. As a kid growing up, having access to that and not having to fork over my allowance money was great. As an adult – it’s an easy city to live in. It’s a family-friendly city. A lot of smart people live here, obviously politically active, but with that political activity comes activity in areas that I’m interested in like the environment and non-profits. There’s a very strong media presence of course. There’s only a very few cities I would be welcome to live in and Washington is one of them.

Here's a gallery of Toomey's editorial cartoons from the Journal newspapers, provided by Mike Jenkins:









Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Nishith "Nish" Pandya - An Artomatic Interview

by Mike Rhode


Nishith "Nish" Pandya's illustration style, as on display at Artomatic, is somewhat cartoony, but his use of the web-handle "cartoonish" led us to decide to reach out to him. (all images from his websites, as my photos from Artomatic did not come out well).

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Lately, my drawing style has been combining my characters and my love for nature and hiking.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I mainly work in pencil, charcoal, or pen-n-ink. I think these mediums tend to enhance the mood I try to create in the drawings.


When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in 1970 in Baroda, India.


Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?

I moved up to DC for a software job and I have been living in Capitol Hill.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

Aside from watching cartoons on tv...none.


Who are your influences?

I think Bugs Bunny did this to me! I would religiously watch Loony Toons on Saturday mornings.

But somewhat-recent animation programs that I love include Invader Zim and Ed, Edd, and Eddy.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

My day job is software and sometimes I wish I had focused more on my art.

What work are you best-known for?

Lately, I think I am known for my nature-inspired drawings.

What work are you most proud of?

I have few personal favorites. One of them is on display at Artomatic. It's an illustration of a girl reading a book by a tree.

20170331_212546


What would you like to do or work on in the future?

I am currently learning oil painting. I have tons of sketches that I would like paint...and finally work with color.

In addition, I keep saying I would like to write and illustrate a children's book.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I get drawing blocks and many times I'll go on nature walks to get ideas and inspiration.


What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Awesome Con, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?

I have not attended any cons. I think I need to attend some!

What's your favorite thing about DC?

I think DC is a great walkable city and I definitely do a lot of walking.






What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to? 

Neither a monument nor a museum, but I like to take visitors to Great Falls if they have never seen it before.

Which side?

I like both sides.

I prefer the hiking on the MD side for myself.

But if my parents come visit me, I ll take them to the VA side since its easier for them to walk around.


Least favorite?

Easy answer...the summers. it gets too hot here.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

It's a chain but I like Matchbox.

Do you have a website or blog?

I am on Instagram. My username is cartoonish2.

I also have a few drawings on www.coroflot.com/cartoonish

Monday, April 10, 2017

Rockeats Alcoreza - An Artomatic Interview

20170331_210813by Mike Rhode

Rockeats Alcoreza's exhibit at Artomatic is heavily-influenced by graffiti and popular culture, especially animation. We reached out to him to ask our usual questions, some of which are less relevant to a painter than a cartoonist.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I do a mixture of urban street art and realism.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

Acrylic paint, sometimes oil.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I'm from DC.

Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in? 

I live in Arlington, VA's Green Valley.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

No training or education, but I feel if I take classes my talent will develop greatly.

Who are your influences?

Hip hop, anime, people

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I would've took art more serious back in middle school. I had a conflict with my art teacher at the time. I didn't continue with art. I completely dropped it. I recently picked it up again.  I know for a fact if I continued doing since middle school to high school, my art would be amazing beyond amazing because I would've learned so many techniques and been guided to produce better art.

What work are you best-known for?

My backgrounds (the patterns you see in majority of my art is called THE 88's).

20170331_210737

What work are you most proud of?

Nothing really I feel like I could do a lot better when I look back at my work.

What would you like to do or work on in the future? 

Make comic strips, funny crude humor or create a book for kids. That would be the dream.

20170331_210732

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I hate when that happens; listening to music sometimes helps.

20170331_210759

What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Awesome Con, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?

Awesome con, but I would like to attend more. I'm not that informed about when these events happen.

What's your favorite thing about DC?

Our go-go music. Our sense of style, the way we talk, and also the fact we are at the nation's capitol.

Least favorite?

Traffic

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?

Corinto gallery

How about a favorite local restaurant?

El Pollo Rico -  it's in Arlington - it's crack.

20170331_210843

Do you have a website or blog?

Websites would be https://www.facebook.com/24mobrockeats
https://www.instagram.com/24mobrockeats/
Later I will create my own website.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Gordon Thomas Frank - An Artomatic Interview

by Mike Rhode
20170325_174048

Gordon Thomas Frank's art is influenced by cartoons including DC and Disney. A selection is on display at Artomatic 2017 in Arlington, VA. He's answered our usual questions.


What type of comic work or cartooning do you do? 

My work has been described as digital pop art.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

Scanned images manipulated through Photoshop.
20170325_173822

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I'm a child of the 70's.

Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

I grew up on the D.C. border in P.G. County. I've lived in Alexandria since 2001.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

Self-taught. I never finished school.

Who are your influences?

Tumblr is a great source for inspiration. I have spent hours cataloging old comic book panels for future reference for my artwork.

20170325_173842

What work are you most proud of?

It's hanging in Artomatic right now...it's called 'Once You Go Black' and it depicts Sleeping Beauty holding a dildo. The show hadn't even opened, and it caused a few complaints.  The woman using the wall space next to me to said it was borderline child pornography. (She went ballistic and moved to the 3rd floor after someone else hung a floor-to-ceiling-sized painting with a penis on it). Another artist told me the Sleeping Beauty piece was 'kinda sorta' pornography, but was more upset with it because, 'as a Black woman', she felt it was racist.

20170325_173910

Do you have a website or blog?

I am the creator of the tumblr blog Love Boat Insanity (loveboatinsanity.tumblr.com). It's a collection of Love Boat  celebrities (and even fictional characters) that might've been...such as John Waters, Divine, Pam Grier, Ultraman, Jeffrey Dahmer and Tommy Wiseau, etc.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Catholid Herald article on animator De Angel

Youth minister uses his talents in animation to illustrate God's love
Arlington Catholic Herald

After years as a professional artist Miguel De Angel felt called to use art more directly in ministry.



De Angel's video on YouTube

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Post on Moana

Despite familiar formula, Disney's 'Moana' is a breath of fresh island air




Washington Post November 23 2016, p. C3
https://www.washingtonpost.com/goingoutguide/movies/disneys-moana-is-a-breath-of-fresh-island-air/2016/11/22/96bd1f90-a50f-11e6-8fc0-7be8f848c492_story.html

'Moana' isn't your typical Disney princess. She's an action hero.


 
and the Times for luck.

'Moana,' Brave Princess on a Voyage With a Chicken



A version of this review appears in print on November 23, 2016, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: Did You Just Call Me a Princess?
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/22/movies/moana-review.html


An image from Disney's "Moana." (courtesy of Disney Animation 2016)

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

A quick chat with Gary Lucas on reviving the Fleischer Brothers cartoon music

by Mike Rhode

Gary Lucas, a New York musician, will be in town this weekend with his tribute to the Fleischer animation studio music heard in Popeye and Betty Boop shorts. His band Gary Lucas Fleischerei has just released a new album Music from Max Fleischer Cartoons from Silver Spring's Cuneiform Records. I've been given a copy of the album and it's a lively, fun interpretation of cartoon music that's not been revived nearly as often as either Disney's or Warner Brothers'.

I'm on jury duty this week, so I'm going to lift a couple of paragraphs from Cuneiform's press release. Original ComicsDC material resumes with a short interview after the italicized text. 

Gary Lucas is one of the great spelunkers of contemporary culture, a fearless explorer who delves into forgotten and overlooked crevices and returns bearing exquisite treasures. His latest project Music from Max Fleischer Cartoons is a particularly spectacular find, a gleaming confection from a hurly-burly era when the Jazz Age crashed into the Great Depression and Tin Pan Alley borrowed shamelessly from Harlem. A 2016 Cuneiform release, the album features songs from Fleischer Studios cartoons originally delivered by actress Mae Questel, who provided the voice and vocals for two beloved but very different characters: the eternally sexy Betty Boop and Popeye’s sometime ‘goilfriend’ Olive Oyl. Finding a singer who could capture the insouciant spirit of Mae Questel while comfortably inhabiting the material proved far more difficult. Lucas turned to his wife Caroline Sinclair, a New York City casting director, who said, “why don’t you let me cast this one?” “That was a good idea,” Lucas says. “Sarah Stiles is really a bundle of fire who can do it all. It was crucial to find a singer who wouldn’t try to hijack the idea and make it about her. We conceived this as a tribute to Mae Questel and the Fleischers. This is about trying to spread Fleischermania.” Part of what makes Stiles such a perfect fit for the material is the way she captures the spirit of the characters. It’s immediately obvious when she’s singing a song associated with the effervescent Ms. Boop and when she’s donning the slippery guise of Ms. Oyl. The album opens and closes with bits lifted from Fleischer productions.


“Fleischer’s animation has a gritty, funky urban sensibility that feeds right into R. Crumb,” Lucas says. “His cartoons had that Jewish and urban wiseguy sensibility. There’s a dark, black humor associated with Eastern European immigrants, and even though I’m from upstate, those are my roots. Betty Boop in particular embodies a knowing sophistication emanating out of Times Square, which was a node of melting pot culture where Broadway, Yiddish theater, and jazz all converged.”

Did you have to have the music transcribed from cartoons, or does written music for the cartoons still exist?

I transcribed and arranged the guitar parts by ear off the soundtracks; I'm not sure how Joe Fiedler who arranged the group parts did it that way, but he could have-- we both have very good ears. I really don't know if any of the cartoon music exists in their original arrangements as written music. It is possible it's filed somewhere, at for the stuff that the assembled studio bands cut in front of the cartoons being projected, photos exist of one of the main composers Sammy Timberg conducting one of these ensembles in a Fleischer cartoons recording session. Some of the music came from actual records of the day that the Fleischer's edited right onto their cartoon soundtracks--such as the "jungle jazz" instrumental tag on "Betty Boop's Penthouse" which FLEISCHEREI perform, which I recently learned comes off a 78 recording of the Mills Blue Rhythm Band entitled "Heat Waves." Perhaps the group re-cut it for the cartoon because it sounds slightly faster on the soundtrack, but, if so, they stuck to the identical arrangement. The connection with current Harlem recording acts is a natural as Mills Blue Rhythm Band were one of the regular ensembles at the Cotton Club uptown.  Paramount was the distributor of the cartoons - and as part of its arrangements with Fleischer Studios, the studio lent some of the artists in their catalog such as Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong to make cameo appearances in the Fleischer cartoons, which were filmed at Paramount Studios in Astoria, Queens. Sometimes these artists toured nationally in the same Paramount theaters that the Fleischer cartoons were screened in, with the cartoons themselves serving as advance publicity for the artist's live appearances.

Did you consider showing the cartoons behind you while you play, as is so popular with symphony orchestras?

Yes we do this, in a roughly synchronized way. As we improvise a lot unlike symphony orchestras it's not easy to always have the right clip on the screen behind us, but I don't think it matters much. It's more about capturing a flavor. We show the intact cartoons also as part of our show.

What did singer Sara Stiles really think when someone asked her to channel Betty Boop's voice?

That someone was I, and Sarah loves Betty Boop's voice. She has no problem channeling it. That is one reason I selected her as the singer.

How has the reception been so far for the tour/album?

We haven't really begun touring this yet. Reaction to the album has been extremely positive.
Do you know who the original composers are?

Yes, and they are duly noted in the booklet credits.

(And so they are. There's a variety of names with Sammy Timberg being credited the most with five songs)

Did you have a hard time convincing the other musicians to join you in this project, or is everyone just seeing it as a fun way to spend a few months?

Everyone in the group loves playing this music. They wouldn't be part of this otherwise.

How does the live audience react?

The reaction has been phenomenal - people love this project, they get off on hearing the music and they adore the cartoons.

Why do you think that Disney and Warner Bros. cartoon music has survived, and relatively prospered, while the Fleischers' was forgotten?

I don't think it was forgotten, I mean, come on - people all over the world know Sammy Lerner's "Popeye the Sailor Man" theme for instance. I just don't' think the music has been effectively  curated (until now!). 

What's your favorite Fleischer cartoon?

1930's "Swing You Singers"  - a surrealist classic.

Favorite animation overall?

Ditto.

I note Robert Crumb is mentioned in your press release; are you a Crumb fan? Have you seen him and his Cheap Suit Serenaders? Have you ever met him and talked music or cartoons?

Yes I love Crumb's work. I never did see his ensemble, although I did see his guitarist, the late Bob Brozman in action, I have never met Crumb alas - but I feel a kindred spirit there. I know he was a HUGE  fan of Max Fleischer!

We now go back to Mr. Lucas' website to round out this post.

Next up, the full swinging FLEISCHEREI 6-piece band will appear along with many classic Max Fleischer cartoons as a special event night at the Washington Jewish Film Festival on Sat. March 5th 8pm at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring Maryland.

Preview the tracks "The Broken Record" and "Ain'tcha" from the new FLEISCHEREI album—
and order the album now!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Post on The Good (not Great) Dinosaur

Is 'The Good Dinosaur' the least imaginative Pixar movie? [in print as PIxar falls into the tar pits of dino story cliches].



Arlo and Forrest Woodbush (aka: The Pet Collector) in "The Good Dinosaur." (Disney/Pixar)

Scientific accuracy is overrated: A paleontologist reviews Pixar's 'The Good Dinosaur'

Monday, November 02, 2015

DC-area band Exit Vehicles has just released an animated video

They tell ComicsDC:


We released our debut album STAGES in July 2015, and the first of a few music videos was released November 1st, this one for our song Module.


We felt the story for this could only really come across well if a cartoon was made from it, so we contacted a mutual acquaintance whose stuff we liked, Michigan-based artist Matt Rasch. Matt agreed to animate and direct for us in his unique style (http://mattraschart.tumblr.com/). It's just a whimsical cartoon about a monkey rocketing across space and back, and we think it's plenty of fun.

Exit Vehicles - Bandcamp website: https://exitvehicles.bandcamp.com/

Bio:

Exit Vehicles are a DC indie rock four piece who formed in mid-2013 as a project between twin brothers Brian and Adam Polon. After being in several bands and releasing several albums apart, the brothers felt it was finally time to try something together, and quickly sketched out 50 original songs on bass and guitar. The twins met drummer Jacob McLocklin (also in DC's indie/pop/rock outfit Cake and Calculus), and recorded 30 tracks with variations on Soundcloud under the project name The Debuggers (the three bandmembers all work in the DC computer/tech sector). The brothers found singer Brian Easley (a recent DC transplant via Austin and Chicago) through the Internet and began playing a show every month across DC for the next year under the name Exit Vehicles, their homage to science, space, technology, and NASA. Easley is a combat-disabled veteran.

Exit Vehicles recorded STAGES, their first LP, at the Lighthouse Recording Studio in Del Ray, Virginia with Peter Larkin early in 2015. The ten track album is a tribute to the Polon brothers' intricate and complex songwriting, McLocklin's dazzling drumwork, and Easley's visceral lyrics and wiry vocals. The album was also produced by Peter Larkin at The Lighthouse in Del Ray, and mastered by Dave Harris at Studio B in Charlotte, NC. The band's earlier 2014 EP offering – which Natan Press of The Deli Magazine described as "Aggressive yet melodic, progressive yet tight, a solid post-punk rhythm section drives a clean alt/indie sound reminiscent of the best in the city's history" – was recorded at Inner Ear Studio in Arlington, Virginia by Don Zientara. Exit Vehicles only play every month or two around DC, so be on the lookout for the next show! They play next on Saturday, December 12th, 2015 at Iota Club and Cafe in Arlington, VA.

Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/exit.vehicles
Twitter: https://twitter.com/exitvehicles
Instagram: https://instagram.com/exitvehicles
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/exit-vehicles

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Obituary for anti-Saturday morning cartoon crusader in the Post


Peggy Charren, 86: Longtime advocate for better children's TV [online as Peggy Charren, advocate for improving children's TV programming, dies at 86]

 
By Matt Schudel
Washington Post January 24 2015
http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/tv/peggy-charren-advocate-for-improving-childrens-tv-programming-dies-at-86/2015/01/23/e5085916-a323-11e4-903f-9f2faf7cd9fe_story.html

"Why can't children's television be more like a good children's library, with lots of diversity," she said in 1983, "and less like the comic-book rack in the local drugstore?"


Friday, February 07, 2014

Express on The Lego Movie

‘The Lego Movie’ Hit Me Like a Ton of Bricks
BY KRISTEN PAGE-KIRBY
[Washington Post] Express February 7 2014 p. 15

The Post reviews The Lego Movie

‘The Lego Movie’ review: Toy-themed ad­ven­ture celebrates creativity


Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture - The plastic gang’s all here to save the day: from left, Unikitty (voiced by Alison Brie), Benny (Charlie Day), Emmet (Chris Pratt), Batman (Will Arnett), Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks).

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Jan 18-19: Little Mermaid Jr. on stage in Arlington

The Little Mermaid Jr.

Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater
Book by Doug Wright
Based on the Hans Christian Andersen Story and the Disney Film produced by Howard Ashman & John Musker and written & directed by John Musker and Ron Clements
January 10-19, 2014
Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre
125 S. Old Glebe Road Arlington, VA 22204
Encore Season 2013 BannerSplash into this classic story of Ariel, the mermaid princess, who wishes to live in the world above rather than the ocean floor. To explore life on land, Ariel disobeys her father, King Triton, and makes a deal with the evil sea witch Ursula. Ransoming her singing voice, she must convince Prince Eric that she is indeed the girl who rescued him or risk losing her voice forever. Sing along to your favorite songs and watch as Ariel, with the help of her friends, tries to break Ursula's curse and win the heart of the Prince. Recommended for ages 4 and up.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Warner Bros.' Sylvester in the Naval History and Heritage Command


This is probably in storage down in the Navy Yard. Sylvester was into body piercings earlier than most Americans apparently.

Accession, 2010-96-1
Plaque, Ship, USS Alameda County, AVB-1
24" Diameter x 0.5 "H.
Wood, Paint.

Plaque, Ship, USS Alameda County.
The USS Alameda County was redesignated an Advance Aviation Base Ship in 1957. Prior to that the Alameda was originally designated a Tank Landing Ship LST-32. The Alameda was decommissioned in 1962.

Collection of Curator Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command.